Friday, March 9, 2012

An Interview with Tobias Buckell Author of Artic Rising

You are a prolific writer, I enjoyed looking at your blog and the wide range of topics you address. Thank you for your willingness to be interviewed. I noticed links for other interviews on your blog and have included a link to your blog here.

With the other interviews in mind, I will keep this brief but feel free to expound to your hearts content.

1.) Why did you write this book?

A few moments struck me. I grew up sailing boats, so I always pay attention to maritime news, and it caught my eye that shipping companies were starting to draw up plans to begin shipping over the North Pole in the next few years. And I read an account of a sailing yacht that passed through the NorthWest Passage. Not all that long ago men were dying trying to prove one could feasibly exist, but it turns out the choking ice prevented an over-the-North-American-continent route, which is why we have the Panama Canal. I started to get the itch to explore what it was going to mean that there would be no polar ice cap in thirty or so years, possibly. Certainly as of the last couple years the US Navy has been moving forward with planning based on that assumption, which is what also caught my attention.

2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?

A little bit of both. I plan out a skeleton of a story, I like to know my destination in rough before jumping in, but I like to have enough freedom to make the smaller bits up as I go along, and I always reserve the right to head off in a better direction if I realize there is one halfway through.

3.) What are your personal views on global warming?

It’s pretty much an accepted scientific consensus that the Earth is warming for one reason or another. Of the scientific consensus there is a very large majority that indicate it’s created by human industry. Not surprising, the same industry is capable of causing cancer from invisible particles, birth defects, etc etc. If we accept we have a giant impact on species disappearing, fishing, and all other areas of the ecosystem, why deny that it’s highly probable we’re having an impact on this one other area?

I am not a fan of hair-shirt environmentalism, and feel it’s done a great deal of damage. However I do think it’s one of the bigger human challenges we’re facing. I do think preaching too much doom is also counterproductive. As global warming increases I doubt we’ll be wiped out, but it will create mega-shifts. The tropics will get hammered by more storms, as will the coasts. Farmland will shift. The sad story is that scientists suspect, based on models, that the bulk of the misery from global warming will, and already is, impacting the developing world (drought, storms, loss of coast) because they’re located in the center, warmer region. The polar tigers, which are mostly developed areas, gain new arable land (Canada and Sibera are probably the biggest winners, right?).

And as I try to point out in the book, geo-engineering is actually a massive, double-edged sword that is not a cureall.

As to what needs done? I don’t have simple answers. I think it’s a complex and large issue.

I also believe that even if you don’t believe it’s happening, a lot of the solutions are actually in general, really good for society at large anyway. Fossil fuel works better as plastic (it’s recyclable), once you burn it for power it doesn’t come back (and we use plastics in the modern world all over the place, it’s worth protecting for that). Fewer emissions are good for society in general. Independent power (house solar) is good in general.

Are they expensive and early in development? Yeah, but that’s why we need to start tossing money at making it happen. The possibilities are there, more and more breakthroughs are happening faster and faster. People who say we can’t make the switch, or claim that it’s too expensive and will hurt the market and country and GDP, are sort of failing to believe in capitalism and science. These same people predicted collapse if we used cap and trade to stop acid rain. That didn’t happen. They predicted we’d never have cold AC in our cars if we got rid of Freon, and that car companies would buckle under the constraints. That didn’t happen either.

Ultimately I believe we have the science, the skills, and ability in the long run to make this. But I also believe there are a lot of forces making profit doing this the old ways and a lot of people have started to drag belief systems into it. So there’s a battle out there. We’ll see what happens, I guess. Certainly, a novelist always looks for places where this is conflict, and uses that for fiction. Seeing all the conflict that a major subject like this engenders, I thought that made it rife for novelization.

4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?

I have a soft spot for Roo, living aboard his catamaran and sailing around the Arctic, freelancing for a living. Sounds like an interesting life, right?

5.) What do you like the most about writing?

I really enjoying just making stuff up for a living, living in other people’s heads. I get to keep my own schedule (I’m a night owl). I really don’t fit well into corporate cultures, so being my own boss has always been extremely appealing!

6.) Where do your new story ideas come from?

Everywhere. Headlines, research, history, personal interaction. It’s a creative cauldron always bubbling in the back of my head. The stuff that floats to the surface gets skimmed off and presented to the world, I think.

7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?

The biggest part of the word writer is the word write. Get in there every day you can and work on something.

8.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?

Read a ton. Then write a ton. Then try to write better the next round and read some more. It’s a commitment and a trade. Enjoy yourself. Try to minimize stress even as you’re trying to make sure you work hard. Be confident and yet critical of what you’re creating. Notice all those squares you have to circle? It’s a skill that you learn, and spend your lifetime mastering.

And do read. When I was teaching writing, I would often get people who wanted to write novels who didn’t read much, but watched a lot of TV and film. Nothing wrong with that, but I kept pointing out to them that what they really wanted to do was be in film or screenwriting, not novel-writing.

Thanks for the interview! Now how to win a copy of Artic Rising.

Runs from 3/6/12 to 3/16/12

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